General Synod celebrates UCC's Mission 4/1 Earth environmental campaign
Written by Anthony Moujaes
July 2, 2013

The people of the United Church of Christ rolled up their sleeves and put a lot of imagination and effort into earth care during the Mission 4/1 Earth 50-day environmental initiative this spring, to make the denomination a leading faith voice on climate change. That collective work of UCC congregations was hailed on the final day of General Synod 2013 in Long Beach, Calif.

"During the 50 days of Eastertide earlier this year, UCC people and congregations committed themselves in profound ways to the care and protection of our planet through Mission 4/1 Earth," said the Rev. Sarah Lund, regional minister from the UCC in Florida.

There were more than 2,100 UCC churches, seminaries, outdoor ministries and health and human services contributing to Mission 4/1 Earth. As one church, the UCC counted more than 600,000 earth-care hours, planted 130,000 trees and sent 50,000 plus advocacy letters to government leaders during the 50 days which began on Easter Monday, April 1, and continued through Pentecost on May 19.

"Thanks to Mission 4/1 Earth, our conscience have been raised, individually and collectively," said Vivian Lucas, director of the Franklinton Center at Bricks, N.C., an immersion center of the Justice and Witness Ministries that advocates for food hunger and literacy issues. "Old habits have given way to newer, greener ones. We've reconsidered what the care and nurture of God's planet can mean for us as Easter people, and we're talking about the conservation of planet Earth even as we're trying to walk a bit more softly on it."

Lund, Lucas, the Rev. Meighan Prichard, the UCC coordinator of the Mission 4/1 Earth campaign, and Kenneth Makuakane, program associate of the Hawaii Conference shared numerous stories of the work that took place during the earth care initiative.

"In Western New York, volunteers spent two cold, rainy days cleaning up the Great Baehre wildlife refuge, hauling away dozens of bags of debris," Makuakane said.

In Chesterfield, Mo., "confirmands and parents and parents from St. John's UCC participated in the Forest ReLeaf Project at the Missouri Botanical Gardens, planting over 1,000 tree seedlings," Prichard said.

In Oregon, a Sunday school class at Bethel UCC "decorated small note cards they sold for $1, hoping to raise enough to plant at least 40 trees in Haiti," Lund said. "Their efforts actually led to the planting of 152 trees."

The denomination surpassed the tree-planting goal of 100,000 trees in late May, and with reports still pouring in after the conclusion of the campaign, the UCC's national offices accepted reports for Mission 4/1 Earth activities until June 30.

In addition to trees planted in national forests through the Arbor Day foundation, and in communities across the country, UCC members planted trees in 13 other countries across the globe; Afghanistan, China, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ecuador, Ghana, Haiti, India, Kenya, Nicaragua, Palestine, Peru, South Sudan and Uganda.

When the 50th day of Mission 4/1 Earth arrived, the Rev. M. Linda Jaramillo, executive minister of the UCC"s Justice and Witness Ministries posed the question, "When pushed by environmental responsibility we are faced with a choice: Do we live in despair and do nothing? Or do we live in hope and take action?"

The answer was clear.

"In the United Church of Christ, we cling to hope, and we definitely take action," Prichard said. "Thank you for making Mission 4/1 Earth a huge success."

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